Thursday, October 13, 2016

Why Trump still has such an excited support base -- and the damage he can still do, even in losing.

The Trump campaign does seem to be in free fall.  Even red, red state Utah is in play, with its large Mormon population.  But people are asking:   Why now?   Why have all the other verbal atrocities not brought him down, and this one does?   Yes, it's true that bragging about sexual assault of women is worse, but it's not really that big a surprise with what we already knew about him.

So, here's a way to look at why now, and then we'll pivot to an even more interesting (to me) question.  I think that:  (1) it is bad and can actually be labelled as sexual assault, which is categorically worse;  (2)  more people are paying attention now than earlier;  (3)  it's already apparent that he's losing, so there's less risk for politicians in defecting now than if he won and had power to retaliate; and (4) it's a final concrete thing people can grasp on to for those who have been wanting to withdraw their support.

But here's what truly puzzles me, maybe even moreso before his free fall started, but still an interesting question:   Why did so many people support this obviously unqualified man?    Yes, he appealed to those who see their world changing and leaving them behind, economically and culturally; and he promised to Make America Great Again just the way they want it to be.   They bought into the chest beating, alpha male, saying "only I can save you."

Then there are the loyal party members who have never before voted for a Democrat, who will accept a lot of flaws to stay loyal to the party.  They have convinced themselves that Hillary would be worse for the country -- and the Supreme Court is the ultimate prize they must have.

And then there is that core group of what has come to be called Trump's base, the ones Clinton meant by her "basket of deplorables" remark:  those angry white people who at least flirt with, or fully embrace nativism, authoritarianism, and white supremacy:  the anti-immigrant, racist, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-gay Alt-Right, White Power, Neo-Nazi, KKK crowd.

I have avoided reading all the stuff they spew forth on social media, on web sites, and talk radio.   This is a whole category of worse-than-Rush-Limbaugh, ones that Donald Trump appeals to and is ambivalent about denouncing . . . because they are a significant core of the support he has left.

So I didn't really know how awful the hate Hillary rhetoric is, until a couple of days ago when one of the bloggers I follow reposted something from far-right-wing radio host, Alex Jones.   Be warned, this is strong stuff, but it helps answer the question:   "why do people think Hillary Clinton is so evil?"   Not just bad, but evil, demonic.   Even Trump said as much in the second debate.

"ALEX JONES (HOST): I'm never a lesser of two evils person, but with Hillary, there's not even the same universe. She is an abject, psychopathic, demon from Hell that as soon as she gets into power is going to try to destroy the planet. I'm sure of that, and people around her say she's so dark now, and so evil, and so possessed that they are having nightmares, they're freaking out. Folks let me just tell you something, and if media wants to go with this, that's fine. There are dozens of videos and photos of Obama having flies land on him, indoors, at all times of year, and he'll be next to a hundred people and no one has flies on them. Hillary, reportedly, I mean, I was told by people around her that they think she's demon-possessed, okay? I'm just going to go ahead and say it, okay?

"They said that they're scared. That's why when I see her when kids are by her, I actually get scared myself, with a child -- with that big rubber face and that -- I mean this woman is dangerous, ladies and gentleman. I'm telling you, she is a demon. This is Biblical. She's going to launch a nuclear war. The Russians are scared of her. . . .

"Imagine how bad she smells, man? I'm told her and Obama, just stink, stink, stink, stink. You can't wash that evil off, man. Told there's a rotten smell around Hillary. I'm not kidding, people say, they say -- folks, I've been told this by high up folks. They say listen, Obama and Hillary both smell like sulfur. I never said this because the media will go crazy with it, but I've talked to people that are in protective details, they're scared of her. And they say listen, she's a frickin' demon and she stinks and so does Obama. I go, like what? Sulfur. They smell like Hell."
Folks, we're back in 1692 at the Salem witch trials, with all the mass hysteria surrounding that supernatural fear spilling into public institutions of power.   This helps me understand people like the woman shown on tv last night at a Mike Pence rally saying that she is constantly reading social media and that she is scared to death about voter fraud and she won't accept anything but a Trump victory.  "If Hillary Clinton gets elected, I'm ready for a revolution, because we can't have her in [there]."

To his credit, Pence interrupted her and said "Don't say that" meaning advocating revolution.   But the fervor she expressed, the absolute certainty she expressed that Clinton is the evil force that is going to take over with a rigged system;  and they have been ramped up by the fear, literally, of Armageddon.   And Trump pours gasoline on all that.   He knows he's going to lose . . . and he's trying to delegitimize the election and create chaos with a crowd that will not accept the legality of Clinton's win.   The 2000 hanging chad controversy will seem like a Sunday school picnic.


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